“¡Darle le luz! Dársela a golpes de recuerdo, a paletadas de claridad que lo revelen…” (To give him light! To illuminate him through bursts of memories, and handfuls of clarity…) — Pablo Neruda
Such was the exhortation of the Chilean poet Neruda as he wrote about the great poet from Orihuela, Miguel Hernández.
On the occasion of the 75th death of Hernández, a collaboration was done to bring his memory from the dark days of his death out into bright light, by showing his poetry, manuscripts, letters and other memorabilia in a touring exhibit, entitled “A plena luz,” which had been shown in Sevilla, Granada, Elche, Manchester, New York, Chicago, Dublin and is now in Manila, until 16 September at the Exhibition Room of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, Casa Azul, Intramuros. It will then proceed to Toulouse and Paris.
As Ximo Puig, president of the Generalitat Valenciana, said, “By means of a journey through the diverse elements that come together in Hernandian poetry, (may) this exhibit’s visitors become familiar with some of these facets that unite to define this unique artistic work… (they all) contribute to bring the visitor closer not only to the poet but also to the man and the unexpected adventures that are at the origin of his poems.”
Miguel Hernández was born in Orihuela, Spain, on 30 October 1910, into a rural family earning their living by raising goats and horses. Miguel had about 10 years of formal schooling, mostly in local Catholic schools, and was given a scholarship after high school but his father wanted him to stay home to tend the family’s animals.
At around this time, Miguel was already an avid reader, and he started writing poetry, published in newspapers, at a young age. His first book of poetry, Perito en Lunas (Expert on Moons) was published in 1933, with the help of a mentor, Bishop Luis Almarcha.
After staying in Madrid for some time though, and mingling with fellow poets like Federico Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti and Pablo Neruda, Miguel’s religious beliefs were slowly replaced by socialism and communism. He was even invited to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1937 as a delegate of the Republic to the Festival of Soviet Theater, attending as a playwright. But the clouds of the Spanish Civil War darkened the skies for Miguel. He continued to write poetry even during the war, including poetry with social and ideologic consciousness. He fought for on the Republican side of the war and addressed troops by reciting his poetry in the front lines.
He was a professed communist, and when fascism eventually won, he continued his anti-fascist stance. Dictator Francisco Franco’s government rounded up the “enemies” including Lorca, who was shot to death.
Hernández was on his way to exile through Portugal in 1939 when he was caught by the government. He was tortured and transferred from jail to jail. In 1942, in an Alicante jail and in failing health, he rejected the request of his then mentor Almarcha, to return to Catholicism and embrace Franco’s regime so he could get medical attention for his advanced tuberculosis. He returned to his faith only so he could marry Josefina Manresa (whom he married in civil rites, but the legality of these rites was annulled by Franco) in a Catholic ceremony to give her and their son legal status. Finally, weakened by disease and deprivation, he expired on 28 March 1942, at the age of 31.
This short biography, of course, does not do justice to the influential and much-revered poet. He was a passionate, prodigious and prolific writer and the exhibit shows his many facets.
This exposition is divided into 10 mutually inclusive concepts, the themes seamlessly flowing into each other: Genesis, Religion, Ideology, Eros and Other Symbols, Literature, Love, War, Imprisonment, Death and Resurrection.
The concepts trace Hernández trajectory from his rural home in Oriheula until he became a well-known poet, including his initial religious beliefs, his later ideology, even his amorous relationships with women other than his wife Josefina Manresa, who became the guardian of his legacy, the war that shaped him and his writing, his dark days in prison, his death and finally his life after this mortal death. His written works are kept alive by the many people who read him, and his poetry were made into songs by esteemed musicians like Serrat, and other flamenco artists.
The exhibit also includes original and facsimiles of his books, photos, letters, compact discs, all showcasing his sentiments, his poetry, his life. All these were made possible through the Diputación de Jaén, (Josefina Manresa was from Quesada, Jaén), Junta de Andalucía, Generalitat Valenciana and Instituto Cervantes.
“Recordar a Miguel Hernández que desapreció en la oscuridad y recordarlo a plena luz, es un deber de España, un deber de amor (Remembering Miguel Hernández, who disappeared in darkness, and remembering him in broad daylight, is a duty of Spain, a duty of love)”
— Pablo Neruda